containment holes, dangers of nuclear, EPA, Germany, ICRP, ICRP recommendations, ICRP Standards, iodine 129, iodine 131, Leibstadt Nuclear Power, nuclear, nuclear accident, nuclear containment, nuclear power, nuclear screw-ups, primary containment, radioactive iodine, radioiodine, Rhine, risk, screw-ups, standards, Switzerland, US EPA, US EPA Standards
For 6 years the primary containment barrier of the Swiss Leibstadt Nuclear Power Station, like Swiss Cheese, had holes, and yet no one noticed. For anyone familiar with construction practices in northern Switzerland, the first isn’t surprising. The fact that no one noticed for 6 years is, however, surprising – though maybe it shouldn’t be.
According to Greenpeace blogger Justin Keating: “They had been drilled right through the 3.8cm-thick steel of the concrete and steel shell surrounding the reactor’s core and is meant to keep all the horrible radioactivity inside from escaping.” Furthermore, “We’re not talking about microscopic cracks in the steel, which can go undetected. No, at Leibstadt we’re talking about holes big enough for red fire extinguishers to hang from one of the most vital parts of the reactor’s safety system. And yet 500 inspections have been made by ENSI at Leibstadt since 2008.” http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/news/Blogs/nuclear-reaction/one-of-lifes-hard-to-believe-moments-drilling/blog/49977/
In 2008, two fire extinguishers were installed at the Leibstadt Nuclear Power Station. In so doing, six holes were pierced in the primary containment of the reactor, in order to insert screws. Five of the six holes were full of screws, whereas the sixth was only covered by a bracket. The confinement barrier that notably isolates the reactor vessel and the core of the reactor is a basic element for security, because it is an obstacle to the emission of radioactive elements into the environment. The holes were discovered accidentally by an employee who was doing rounds. (See: http://www.greenpeace.org/switzerland/fr/publications/blog/trous-centrale-leibstadt/blog/49888/ http://www.aargauerzeitung.ch/aargau/zurzach/akw-leibstadt-loecher-in-reaktorhuelle-blieben-sechs-jahre-lang-unbemerkt-128163967)
Even with holes, and with the fact that in 2013, according to the Swiss Nuclear Safety Inspectorate (ENSI), the Leibstadt Nuclear Reactor had radioactive iodine emissions that were higher than others, the Leibstadt Nuclear Reactor is said to give an individual exposure rate of less than 0.01 mSv per year. On July 7, 2014, ENSI stated that even in a worst case scenario the dose limit would not be exceeded. http://www.ensi.ch/fr/2014/07/07/trous-de-percage-dans-lenceinte-de-confinement-primaire-de-la-centrale-nucleaire-de-leibstadt/ The dose limit referred to is presumably the 0.3 mSv Swiss “standard”, for non-nuclear workers.
This should serve as an indication of how extremely high the ICRP radiation leakage allowance recommendation of 0.1 mSv per year is (ICRP, 2007, pp. 105, 116). It shows how utterly outrageous is the 1 mSv, which the nuclear industry, and many governments, want people to falsely believe that the ICRP recommends.
In the “Publication 103, the 2007 Recommendations of the International Commission on Radiological Protection“, the ICRP states that if there is a “prolonged component from long-lived nuclides“, then the exposure limit should be planned as 0.1 mSv (p. 116). Emission of long-lived radionuclides is clearly the case for nuclear facilities, in contrast to medical exposures. Thus, the “standard” is a limit of 0.1mSv and emphatically not 1 mSv. 
This is something for everyone to consider, and especially those living in the USA with the “Environmental Standards for Uranium Fuel Cycle Facilities: Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) Comment period extended to August 3, 2014” and coming due soon: http://www.epa.gov/radiation/laws/190/ The NRC will call for comments soon, as well.
A recent post explains how little German Nuclear Reactors were said to be leaking in 2010, compared to ICRP “standards”. If the German and Swiss data are accurate, they suggest the easy possibility of much more strict US EPA-NRC standards: https://miningawareness.wordpress.com/2014/07/18/how-much-do-german-nuclear-reactors-leak-how-much-are-they-allowed-to-leak/ They also raise the question of why the nuclear industry wants to leak so much more!
The US EPA currently has a “standard” – up for grabs right now – of 0.25 mSv (i.e. 25 mrems) – excepting the thyroid, which is seemingly walking around on its own at 0.75 mSv (i.e. 75 mrems). Organ exposures are supposed to add up to full body exposure – a fact which many seem to miss or intentionally cheat on! The idea of a higher amount for the thyroid appears to have its roots in medical treatment of the thyroid, whereas the thyroid requires extra protection from radioiodine emissions from nuclear facilities.
Those living in the USA, especially, need to grab their chance and demand that the US EPA acceptable exposure standard be reduced from 0.25 mSV (25 mrem) to 0.0005 mSv (0.05 mrem), 0.0003 mSv (0.03 mrem), or even less, since based on the German data, it cannot be argued that it causes “hardship” to the nuclear power operators. https://miningawareness.wordpress.com/2014/07/18/how-much-do-german-nuclear-reactors-leak-how-much-are-they-allowed-to-leak/ The emissions rate must include both air and water, and the organs and rest of body must add up to the total.
In the nuclear power station of Leibstadt, the radio-iodine emissions were higher in 2013, than in the previous years, according to the Swiss Federal Nuclear Security Inspectorate (ENSI). This increase is said to be due to damage to the fuel rods. Even still, according to the Swiss regulatory authority, the radioactive emissions are well under that allowed by law. They are allowed to leak at a most exposed person exposure rate of 0.3 mSv per year, but leak less than 0.01 mSv. This is for the non-nuclear worker. The average of those working in the nuclear profession in Switzerland is 0.6 mSv, well below the 20 mSv allowed for nuclear workers. The maximum individual dose was 11 mSv in 2013, by someone who had worked in several nuclear installations. http://www.ensi.ch/fr/2014/06/12/installations-nucleaires-les-rejets-de-substances-radioactives-restes-faibles-en-2013/ “Installations nucléaires : les rejets de substances radioactives restés faibles en 2013“, 12. juin 2014
People also need to take an interest in the standards for nuclear workers because, especially if nuclear is not promptly stopped, Fukushima and Chernobyl clean-up workers will be the future of many. Whenever nuclear is stopped, there is still going to be the waste, and waste monitoring will take an increasing number of workers, if it is done properly.
Causes of Radioactive Iodine Emissions from Nuclear Power Plants
“Iodine-129 and iodine-131 are gaseous fission products that form within fuel rods as they fission. Unless reactor chemistry is carefully controlled, they can build up too fast, increasing pressure and causing corrosion in the rods. As the rods age, cracks or wholes may breach the rods.
Cracked rods can release radioactive iodine into the water that surrounds and cools the fuel rods. There, it circulates with the cooling water throughout the system, ending up in the airborne, liquid, and solid wastes from the reactor. From time to time, reactor gas capture systems release gases, including iodine, to the environment under applicable regulations.
Anywhere spent nuclear fuel is handled, there is a chance that iodine-129 and iodine-131 will escape into the environment. Nuclear fuel reprocessing plants dissolve the spent fuel rods in strong acids to recover plutonium and other valuable materials. In the process, they also release iodine-129 and -131 into the airborne, liquid, and solid waste processing systems. In the U.S., spent nuclear fuel is no longer reprocessed, because of concerns about nuclear weapons proliferation.” (Emphasis added) http://www.epa.gov/rpdweb00/radionuclides/iodine.html#environment
What is the Primary Containment?
The reactor vessel is the first layer of shielding around the nuclear fuel and usually is designed to trap most of the radiation released during a nuclear reaction. The reactor vessel is also designed to withstand high pressures.
The primary containment system usually consists of a large metal and concrete structure (often cylindrical or bulb shaped) that contains the reactor vessel. In most reactors it also contains the radioactively contaminated systems. The primary containment system is designed to withstand strong internal pressures resulting from a leak or intentional depressurization of the reactor vessel.” (Emphasis added) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_reactor_safety_systems
Swiss Cheese Containment Patched
The Swiss Federal Nuclear Security Inspectorate (ENSI) accepted the repair of the holes drilled in the containment of the reactor. The matter is not entirely closed however. By July 24, 2014 Leibstadt Nuclear Power Station must provide a report to ENSI. ENSI will see if the measures proposed will prevent such an event from happening in the future. The welding work was monitored by the Swiss Association of Technical Inspection (ASIT). Quality and impermeability tests were considered satisfactory, according to ENSI. http://www.ensi.ch/fr/2014/07/18/la-centrale-nucleaire-de-leibstadt-satisfait-a-la-requete-de-lifsn-pour-la-reparation-de-lenceinte-de-confinement/
Greenpeace Switzerland (Stephan Füglister) remarks that while the operator recognizes that they made an error, and the Swiss Federal Nuclear Security Inspectorate (ENSI) is very critical of the operator, it must be recognized that ENSI failed in their mission. The ENSI should now accept to allow an independent inquiry, which can answer how this happened and why it took 6 years for it to be repaired. Füglister points out that it is not very important to know whether it was an employee of a subcontractor that committed this screw-up or an employee of the Nuclear Power Station. He states that the authorization to work with a drill on the primary containment of the nuclear reactor could not be done without the agreement of a responsible party of the nuclear power plant. Such work should have at least attracted the attention of employees present, because it goes against the basic principles of nuclear security. For him, it harkens back to a scandal in 2001, where some employees of nuclear power stations signed off on accounts of security rounds without having really inspected anything. According to the precautionary principle, once the holes were detected, the Leibstadt reactor should have no longer been considered safe. If the Leibstadt Nuclear Power Station had a true security culture, the reactor would have been stopped immediately. After a periodic security check in 2009, it was attested that Leibstadt satisfied all of the criteria to guarantee safe functioning. The holes already existed at that time. http://www.greenpeace.org/switzerland/fr/publications/blog/trous-centrale-leibstadt/blog/49888/
We would ask a last question: Is Patching the Secondary Containment Sufficient under pressure, in the event of a nuclear accident at Leibstadt? If the answer is “no” then the repercussions could be huge in much of Europe.
You don’t need to be an engineer to figure out that the stress mechanics of patching can be a problem: “No man also seweth a piece of new cloth on an old garment: else the new piece that filled it up taketh away from the old, and the rent [tear] is made worse“. Mark 21: 2, KJV
Note, References-Further Reading
The ENSI documents are also in German, and probably Italian. Major ENSI documents are only in German, which is wrong. Switzerland’s 3 main languages are German, French and Italian.
Note : The confusion regarding the ICRP standard may be, in part, because most English speakers have only access to the free draft report, where this point is less clear. Demanding pay for the final ICRP is criminal, since so many regulatory bodies claim to base their decisions on it. This is all the more true, since it is available for free in every major language (and a few minor) except English!
“Centrale de Leibstadt: responsabilité de l’IFSN engagée”
Billet posté par Stephan Füglister – 10 juillet, 2014 à 16:51 http://www.greenpeace.org/switzerland/fr/publications/blog/trous-centrale-leibstadt/blog/49888/
“Um Feuerlöscher an der Wand der Sicherheitshülle zu befestigen, bohrten Mitarbeiter Löcher in diese und beschädigten sie. AKW-Leiter Andreas Pfeiffer räumt im Interview Fehler ein – Radioaktivität hätte deshalb aber nicht aus der Hülle austreten können“. von Fabian Hägler http://www.aargauerzeitung.ch/aargau/zurzach/akw-leibstadt-loecher-in-reaktorhuelle-blieben-sechs-jahre-lang-unbemerkt-128163967 Includes a video. If you know German and don’t understand the video, it’s not you. If you don’t know German or Swiss German, we recommend you mute the volume on the video.
“Installations nucléaires : les rejets de substances radioactives restés faibles en 2013” 12. juin 2014 http://www.ensi.ch/fr/2014/06/12/installations-nucleaires-les-rejets-de-substances-radioactives-restes-faibles-en-2013/
“One of life’s hard-to-believe moments: Drilling holes in a nuclear reactor” Blogpost by Justin McKeating – 22 July, 2014 at 10:39 http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/news/Blogs/nuclear-reaction/one-of-lifes-hard-to-believe-moments-drilling/blog/49977/ (Highly recommended, well-written article. We didn’t re-post it because it is so good that we feared that no one would read ours! And, we needed to make our ICRP points. We might still post it another time. )
“La centrale nucléaire de Leibstadt satisfait à la requête de l’IFSN pour la réparation de l’enceinte de confinement“, 18 juillet 2014 http://www.ensi.ch/fr/2014/07/18/la-centrale-nucleaire-de-leibstadt-satisfait-a-la-requete-de-lifsn-pour-la-reparation-de-lenceinte-de-confinement/
“Trous de perçage dans l’enceinte de confinement primaire de la centrale nucléaire de Leibstadt“, 7 juillet 2014 http://www.ensi.ch/fr/2014/07/07/trous-de-percage-dans-lenceinte-de-confinement-primaire-de-la-centrale-nucleaire-de-leibstadt/